Chorizo is a well-seasoned pork sausage usually made from pork shoulder and back fat (1).

Although chorizo is traditionally pork-based, beef, venison, turkey, and tofu chorizos are also available.

Chorizo’s mouthwatering flavor comes from chili powder and paprika spices, which also provide the meat’s red pigment.

Common in Mexican and Spanish cuisine, chorizo is usually paired with traditional dishes, such as arepas. This pancake-like dough is made from cornmeal and commonly eaten at breakfast with eggs or potatoes.

The quick answer to whether you can eat chorizo raw is that it depends on the type of chorizo.

There are two traditional kinds of chorizo: Mexican and Spanish.

Several links of chorizo, a spicy sausage, in a pan.Share on Pinterest
Cameron Whitman/Stocksy United

Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo are two very different pork-based sausages.

Mexican chorizo is available fresh or frozen. It’s generally sold raw, so it’s only safe to eat once it has been cooked.

If you want to cook with this type of chorizo, you can locate it in the refrigerated or frozen sections of grocery stores.

When fresh, it’s ground and wet in appearance, so it shouldn’t be confused with Spanish chorizo.

Spanish chorizo, on the other hand, goes through a process of curing and fermentation. This process “cooks” the Spanish chorizo so that it’s safe to eat.

Summary

Mexican chorizo is raw meat that requires cooking before eating, whereas Spanish chorizo is cured meat that’s not raw. Thus, it’s safe to eat as is.

The process of making cured (Spanish) chorizo starts with grinding and mincing pork meat. The meat gets its taste and aroma from spices and seasonings, including salt, chili powder, paprika, and garlic.

Natural or synthetic antioxidants may also be added to the meat to increase its shelf life (1, 2).

The meat is then packed into pig intestines or a synthetic casing to form sausages. Next, the sausage links are stored for several weeks, during which curing begins through a dry-ripening process at reduced temperatures. This lengthy process removes water (1, 3).

During this ripening stage, the addition of starter bacteria cultures like lactic acid bacteria and yeasts stimulate fermentation.

Fermentation occurs when the sugars in sausage break down and produce lactic acid. The production of lactic acid helps prevent spoiling, so the sausage is safe to eat (4, 5).

According to recent and older studies, sausages are stored in a vacuum for about a month to prevent hardness and maintain some moisture (1, 6)

Summary

Cured (Spanish) chorizo undergoes fermentation, dry-ripening, and vacuum storage to create a product that’s delicious and long lasting.

When handling raw Mexican chorizo or any other uncooked meat, it’s crucial to reduce your risk of foodborne illness — also known as food poisoning.

Food poisoning can result from mishandling raw foods. If raw meat contains harmful bacteria, cooking the meat to recommended temperatures destroys these germs and reduces your risk of becoming sick.

Symptoms of food poisoning can range from mild to severe and include the following (7):

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • stomach cramps

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one in six Americans experiences foodborne illness each year (8).

Viruses, bacteria, and parasites in or on foods can cause food poisoning. The top five culprits are Staphylococcus aureus, norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter (7).

Other germs like Escherichia coli (E. coli), Vibrio, Listeria, and Clostridium botulinum are most likely to cause severe illness that may require hospitalization (7).

Summary

Food poisoning can happen when you eat food that contains viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are a few signs that you may be sick with food poisoning. To prevent this, it’s essential to safely handle raw foods.

  1. Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds and rinse them under warm water before and after touching food (8).
  2. Clean your kitchen surfaces with antibacterial cleaning products. Prepare raw meats separately from other foods like fruits and vegetables to reduce your risk of cross contamination.
  3. Use a clean plastic or glass cutting board for your meat. It helps to always use a designated cutting board for raw meats.
  4. After preparing raw meats, wash all contaminated dishware.
  5. Check that you’ve cooked your meat to its recommended internal temperature using a meat thermometer. For Mexican chorizo, the safe temperature is 160oF (71.1oC)(9).

The savory sausage is an excellent complement to many foods. Chorizo is especially prominent in breakfast dishes alongside eggs, corn tortillas, avocados, and salsa.

Chorizo can also be a delicious part of various meals like enchiladas, quesadillas, and seafood stews and paellas.

Since Spanish chorizo is ready to eat, it makes a great addition to a charcuterie board when served with sliced cheese, crackers, and dried fruit.

Check your recipe ahead of time to know which type of chorizo you should use. Since Mexican and Spanish chorizos have distinct textures and preparation methods, stick to the kind of chorizo your recipe specifies.

In cooking, recipes usually call for the removal of the sausage meat from its casing.

Chorizo is high fat meat and provides oil during cooking, so cooking oil may not be necessary.

Summary

Chorizo is a versatile pork-based meat that can be paired with all kinds of foods. Given the different textures of Mexican and Spanish chorizos, it’s best to use the exact chorizo your recipe calls for.

Chorizo is a popular pork sausage often accompanying a hearty breakfast meal. There are two kinds of pork chorizo: Mexican and Spanish.

Mexican chorizo is generally packaged raw and must be cooked before you eat it. Spanish chorizo is made safe to eat through a curing process, so you don’t need to cook it.

Food poisoning is common and can cause severe illness that can lead to hospitalization. Make sure to cook Mexican chorizo to 160oF to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

Spanish chorizo is not raw, however — it’s cured. As such, you can safely eat it as is.